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December 29. 2013 7:38PM

Windham pays $144K to four town employees for accrued time off

WINDHAM — The Board of Selectmen voted earlier this month to spend more than $144,000 worth of insurance rebates to compensate four town employees for accumulated time off.

During the Dec. 16 board meeting, the four members present voted unanimously in favor of the payout agreements. Selectman Ross McLeod wasn't present for the meeting.

Under the agreement, Town Administrator David Sullivan, Police Capt. Michael Caron, Highway Agent Jack McCartney and Fire Chief Thomas McPherson will each receive thousands of dollars in one-time payments of salary and required retirement contribution reimbursements.

Sullivan said discussions on the matter have taken place over the past year, with town officials debating Windham's acting personnel policies and collective bargaining agreements pertaining to earned time accruals.

During the Dec. 16 board meeting, the town manager said the payout agreements were in keeping with ongoing efforts to cap the earned time liability and adjust earned time accumulations for new employees, with amendments under way to limit existing earned time in keeping with the union contracts being proposed.

"We're pleased to advise that amendments have or will be implemented that, moving forward, will largely reduce both the potential financial liabilities and extended absences requiring coverage that might have come with the departure of longtime employees," the board said in a statement posted on the town's website this week.

Previously, employees had been able to compile unlimited earned time, but as it stands now, amendments to the town's personnel policies are capping earned time for non-union employees at 800 hours.

Selectman Phil LoChiatto said he felt the payouts "were a prudent use of the monies received."

The payout approved earlier this month represents the significant earned time accrued by Sullivan, Caron, McCartney and McPherson over an average of 15 years, representing the time when earned time was unlimited.

Earlier this year the town of Windham received reimbursement of approximately $160,000 of excess insurance premium funds from the Local Government Center.

"While initially it was thought this could be simply left as unexpended budget funds, after careful consideration the Board did not ultimately believe that to be the most beneficial use of this surplus revenue," selectmen said in their written statement. "Instead, we unanimously determined that a wiser and more fiscally sound use would be the immediate reduction of future, unfunded liabilities to the taxpayers."

Not everyone praised the board's recent decision, with some members of the Windham Taxpayers Coalition taking a different viewpoint of the recent payout agreements.

Former selectmen Bruce Breton, now one of the group's directors, said he'd "rather see the money go back to reducing the tax rate."

aguilmet@newstote.com


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